Molecular plant breeding is a general term for a series of technologies and strategies that are used to improve crop plant species. This includes not only ‘genomic’ methods, which exploit information on the whole DNA content of plant species, but also other aspects of the so-called ‘systems biology continuum’, leading to final expression of a particular agronomic trait or character. As a hypothetical example of events occurring across this continuum, it would be possible to imagine a change in the DNA sequence of a gene leading to increased production of the messenger RNA which is the primary product of gene expression, producing higher activity of a protein enzyme that is translated from the RNA, generating higher levels of a key metabolite produced by the enzyme (such a plant alkaloid compound), that is critical for a key physiological process that underpins an adaptive trait (such a toxicity to herbivorous animals). The whole process is critically dependent on capacity in bioinformatics (the science of biological information management), because of the scale of the datasets that are generated. The key objectives of molecular plant breeding projects are typically to enhance crop yield and product quality; to improved tolerance to biotic stresses (pathogens, pests, plant competitors) and abiotic stresses (drought, salinity etc.); and to improve environmental sustainability.
Cite this article as:
Forster, J.W., Cogan, N.O.I. and McLaren, D. (2013). What the world of weeds can learn from molecular plant breeding. Plant Protection Quarterly 28(2), 31-4.